We send our children to the school to get educated, and till a few decades ago, we did not have to dwell too much on the safety of our children in the schools; we took it for granted, for the school was always synonymous with the word ‘safe’. Unfortunately, it is no longer the case.
In 1995, in Mandi Dabwali, many school children perished in a fire at a prize distribution ceremony
In 2001, 971 school children died in the Bhuj earthquake
In 2004, 94 children burned to death in a school in Kumbakonam
In 2013, 24 children died of food poisoning after the mid-day meal in a Bihar school
In 2014, a 6-year old child was raped by two gym instructors.
The list seems to be endless; from natural calamities to the man-made ones, from the negligence of man to the beast like action of man, our children are no longer safe in school. Some of these disasters could have been averted by simple prevention and preparedness. We, as parents, must make certain that we are aware of the norms and regulations that a school must follow, and keep a vigil on their compliance.
The recent terror attack on a school in Pakistan should jolt the parents of school going children in India out of their complacency, and they should become more aware.
Disaster management in schools
Creating a safe environment for the children in school is the most important task, as in the case of any emergency they are the most vulnerable. National Disaster Management Authority, of the Ministry of Home Affairs, strongly feels that there has to be a structural, as well as non-structural intervention, to ensure the safety of the children. Structural intervention would include strict check on the guidelines set up for school buildings, while non-structural would mean educating the staff, teachers, and students about disaster management. The Ministry insists that every school adopt a school safety programme targeting the educational institutions, emergency officials, teachers, students and even the community at large. Under this programme, the students learn about safety measures, thus becoming future disaster managers, while a disaster resilient society is built by way of educating the community. Some of the ways and means of educating the child are:
- Building awareness by way of campaigns, rallies etc
- Conducting mock drills for fire disasters and earthquakes
- First aid training
- A clear picture of command and control, so that in case of an emergency there is no chaos
- Use of the fire extinguisher
With terror attacks on schools all over the world, India should also prepare itself for any such eventualities. The schools must take necessary precautions against entry of unknown individuals to schools by issuing an identity card even for the parents. The security checks should be strict. The students may be given some tips as to how to behave in a hostage situation by professional counsellors.
Keep the child’s childhood safe
Child molestation and rape in schools has sadly become very common and an everyday news. In fact, after the rape of a 6-year old in a school in Bangalore, many schools have abdicated their responsibility, both legal and ethical, towards the children. A parent in Bangalore received the following form from her child’s school, for signature:
It stated: “In consideration of my child’s participation in various events organised by the school, I hereby release the management, officers, employees and agents of the school, its parent and sister concerns and any other people officially connected with the events from any and all liability for damage to or loss of personal property, sickness or injury from whatever source, legal entanglements, loss of life or money, which might occur while the child is participating in the event.”
Thus as parents we need to step forward and ensure the safety of our children and see to it that their childhood is not snatched away from them. We need to do the following:
- Educate the child; as per the age, teach the child the difference between good touch and bad touch.
- Convince the child, no matter what, our love for them is unconditional
- Open all channels of communication with the child
- Create a buddy system in school, so that the child is always in the company of a friend. Each should know the whereabouts of the other at all times
- Regularly interact with teachers, including physical education and art teacher; make it a point to immediately meet any newly appointed teacher.
Activists and parents feel that it should be mandatory for schools across the country to have a child protection policy, or CPP, in place. CPP protects the child from abuse, harm, neglect and exploitation of any nature. As of now, CPP has been adopted only by the State of Delhi, based on the guidelines of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2007 conducted a study, where they found that children in the 5-12 age bracket are most at risk of abuse and exploitation. It estimated that two out of every three children in India are physically abused. To add to this menace, children are also at a risk from man-made disasters and in the present world, from acts of terrorism. It is time to prevent such mishaps. Children are the future of our nation. It is our duty to provide them with a safe environment, in which they can blossom into good citizens. Let’s join hands and protect the children.
It’s time for a better tomorrow.
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